When the 49ers first assembled as a team last year, the lockout had wiped away most of the offseason and Jim Harbaugh and his players had to sprint and cram and sprint some more just to get ready for the regular season.
The entire 49ers squad met for the first time this week, giving them a nearly three-month head start on where they were last season. But that doesn't mean the pace of life at 49ers headquarters has become leisurely. In fact, it's just as urgent as last year.
"Let me tell you, things have not changed," quarterback Alex Smith said today. "If you talk to anybody about the first day of Football School and it was like, holy smokes. I think it blew everyone's mind. I know Randy (Moss) came out here and was like, holy smokes. It was 100 mph. This coaching staff, coach Harbaugh, only knows one speed. It's not relax time, it's full throttle even more."
Harbaugh said he was most pleased with the attendance for the team's first week of OTAs. The only absences were safety Dashon Goldson, who has not yet signed his franchise tag tender, and three rookies, including second-round pick LaMichael James, whose schools have not yet had their graduations.
Other 49ers sat out today's session with injuries. That included starting cornerback Carlos Rogers, who observed practice and seemed to be moving around ok, but who did not participate. Chris Culliver filled in with the first-team defense.
Other injured players included draft picks guard Joe Looney (ankle) and linebacker Darius Fleming (ACL), receiver Ted Ginn and tight end Delanie Walker, who went down during a team drill. Walker got back to his feet and told reporters afterward that he had been held out of practice as a precaution.
The only starting position that's been in doubt is right guard. But Harbaugh said that even that position was not as fuzzy as it was a couple of months ago. "Really Alex Boone had the first shot at that, and he's doing a phenomenal job," he said. "There'll be competition, of course, but he's doing outstanding."
Other players who lined up in that spot with the second-team offensive line included second-year players Derek Hall and Mike Person. Daniel Kilgore mostly lined up at center with the second-team offensive line.
Harbaugh also said that, as it stands now, Colin Kaepernick is the No. 2 quarterback behind Smith. Smith said the quarterback group, which also includes Josh Johnson and Scott Tolzien, was the deepest he's been a part of.
"Every single guy in there, no matter what happens, has got a good chance of being on an NFL roster," he said. "Every single one of these guys can play. They all have different strengths. They're all incredibly bright, which I think is the most important thing in the NFL. All those guys are really smart guys. And they all work hard."
Smith gushed about the newcomers at wide receiver, likening them to new toys under the Christmas tree. He also noted that he's getting a rare chance to play with one of his older toys, Michael Crabtree, who has been injured in previous offseasons.
"He's healthy and I think he's excited about that," Smith said. "I think he's feeling really good. You come out and watch and he's running better than he ever has since I've seen him. Running really well out here, making plays. It's exciting to see. I know a lot of the new faces get a lot of attention, but he's done really well out here."
-- Matt Barrows